John Humphrys at 6am signals another Groundhog Day

30th November 2007 at 00:00

"Maybe it's winter coming on," said my friend the other day, "but have you noticed how samey all the days at college have become?"

I hadn't, but that wasn't going to stop him developing his theme.

"It's a bit like that film," he said. "You know, the one about the Pennsylvania town and the possum."

"Groundhog Day, I think you'll find it's called."

"That's the one. Where Bill Murray gets stuck in a time loop and keeps reliving the same day over and over. Well, that's what it's like for me. It even starts in the same way when the radio alarm switches on at 6am."

"You mean they're playing Sonny and Cher?"

"No, in my case it's John Humphrys and Sarah Montague. And they're not singing, but discussing the Government's latest decision to do away with half a dozen FE quangos."

"And replace them with 10 new ones."

"That's it," my friend exclaimed. "And they're all called by acronyms with an `o' at the end, like Bongo or Fengo."

"And they're all Crapo," I said, warming to his theme, "and no one's ever heard of them or knows what they do!

"So what happens next?"

"I get to work and switch on my computer. And even though I checked at 6pm the previous night, there are always 20 new emails requiring immediate action. The first one's always about inspection and how everyone's certain it's imminent, so it's imperative that all our schemes of work are done again from scratch and submitted in triplicate by Wednesday."

"And next?"

"I go to the resources room and spend 20 minutes not getting my photocopying done because some brain-dead nerk has walked off and left it with half a dozen paper jams. Great start to the day, eh? Down on your knees yanking pieces of shredded paper out of the thing and getting covered in toner.

"So then I head off to the classroom looking like a member of the black hand gang and sit and watch as the students all trickle in late.

"It really is the same every day - as if someone's choreographed them. As they arrive they call out things like `traffic', `buses' or `trains'. There's always one who says `camels', just to see if I'm awake.

"After the last one's arrived, we just get down to work when Beryl's phone goes off. So then I take out my phone and make a big thing of turning that off and remind everyone else to do the same."

"And then?"

"Carol's phone goes off and when I shout at her she makes a run for the door and shouts back, `It's important!'

"Then we've just got down to work again when the fire alarm goes off and we all trail down 10 floors - because we can't use the lifts - and stand in the street in the freezing cold. When that's over, we have to walk back up because all the lifts are full.

"And as soon as we start work again, my phone goes off - I turned it on in the street and forgot to turn it off again - so of course they all fall about at that and call out things like `gutted'! At this point I give up on getting anything done in class and ask for their homework."

"And do you get it?"

"I get it all right - but not their homework! Instead I get a set of excuses that are as choreographed as their arrivals. Only this time the key words are all about printers and passwords and paper.

"And have you tried to do anything to break out of this loop?" I ask.

"No," he replies, "but it really is driving me loopy."

"Didn't Bill Murray throw himself off the top of a building to do that?"

"Yes," says my friend. "I've thought about that, but decided against."

"Afraid of the unknown, eh?"

"No, just the reverse. I'm afraid that, just like Bill, I'll end up back in the same old bed at 6am listening to Humphrys and Montague all over again."

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